Music performance, composing and arranging are always intertwined, but usually remain distinct specialties. Becoming an expert in two areas is already an achievement. Internationally lauded trumpet player Bert Joris is one of the few to reach an enviable level in all three areas. Since the mid-80’s, Joris has built a reputation as a lyrical musician whose elegance and warm, silky tone have turned him into the reference for trumpet players in Belgium. Besides that, his compositions have found their way into the repertoire of countless musicians, in Belgium and abroad. Joris has also become a top-class arranger, working with some of the best in the field, like the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, which has performed many of his colorful and layered compositions and arrangements. On top of that, Joris is also held in high regard as a film composer and educator, having taught masterclasses all over the world and playing a key role in the development of jazz departments at several conservatories.
Bert Joris was born in Antwerp in 1957 and soon received classical lessons on violin, piano and acoustic bass. He started playing the trumpet at the age of fourteen, and quickly developed an interest in jazz. Already at a young age, the trumpet player gets noticed because of his warm sound and lyricism. Getting invited to join the ‘BRT Jazz Orchestra’ is a turning point in his career and he will remain a member of the orchestra until 1987.
In the meantime, Joris had been stretching out as a performer and composer-musician. His first Quartet album – Sweet Seventina (1986) – got noticed in Belgium and abroad, and preceded a strong new wave of Belgian jazz by a few years. Shortly after its release, Joris was invited to tour and record as part of Joe Lovano’s Quartet. Next to that, he also recorded and performed with the Joe Haider Orchestra feat. Mel Lewis, one of the crucial big bands of its time.
It became the start of a long and impressive series of collaborations, often with Joris playing in the company of some legendary veterans of international jazz (Lee Konitz, Clark Terry, Tony Malaby, Mark Johnson, Jimmy Cobb, Charlie Mariano, Hank Jones, Lew Tabackin, Woody Shaw, Joshua Redman, to name just a few,…), but also our ‘own’ heavyweights and talents (Michel Herr, Philippe Aerts, Nathalie Loriers, Marc Moulin,…). Meanwhile, his Quartet remains a central part of his career. Magone (2007) in particular is treated to widespread acclaim and became the recipient of several prizes (Disque d’emoi, Choc, Klara Jazz Award).
Joris is not just a go to-guy, as he also maintains several long-term connections. One example is his long-standing collaboration with Belgian guitar icon Philip Catherine, while he also performed with the Enrico Pieranunzi Quintet, an affiliation that has popped up again in the current decade. The key alliance in Joris’ career is probably the one with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra (BJO), which has become one of the most respected professional bands of its kind, known for its timeless class and tirelessly investigative spirit.
From early work such as The September Sessions (1999) to the recently released We Have A Dream (2018), its output remains an embarrassment of riches, the Orchestra becoming the ideal foil for Joris’ vivid and lush compositions and intricate arrangements. Several releases - The Music of Bert Joris (2002), Dangerous Liaison (2006), Signs & Signatures (2010), Smooth Shake (2016) – were credited to Joris and the BJO. For others, Joris was guest and arranger (Meeting Colours (2005) with Philip Catherine, The Music Of Enrico Pieranunzi (2015) with Pieranunzi himself), or arranger (Ten Years Ago (2008) with Richard Galliano, We Have A Dream (2018) with stellar vocalist Tutu Puoane). An impressive list, by any standard.
Next to the BJO, Joris has also worked intensely with the Swiss Jazz Orchestra (formerly SJS Big Band), with a performance at the Montreux Jazz festival and an appearance at the 1998 IAJE Convention in New York, with guest soloist Clark Terry. Six years later, he returned for another stellar performance, this time with the BJO. In 2009, Joris performed as a conductor in some of the most prestigious concert halls of Belgium with the Brussels Philharmonic and the BJO. Throughout the years, Joris worked with an impressive list of bands: WDR Big Band, HR Big Band, Metropole Orchestra, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, SWR Big Band, RTS Big Band and the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw.
Joris has also been quite active outside of the jazz world, by writing several film scores (Bal Masqué 1998), De Kus (2004), and Dennis Van Rita (2006)) and contributing to releases by a wide variety of Belgian pop artists and singer-songwriters.
As Joris’ stature as a musician, composer and arranger grew, he also remained active as an educator, teaching at the conservatories of Leuven, Brussels and Antwerp. In the Netherlands, he taught at the Hilversum conservatory and since 1987, he runs a successful trumpet class in Bern (Switzerland).
On top of the prizes already mentioned, Joris is also the recipient of the prestigious ‘Django d’Or’ (1996) and he was named the best trumpet player of the year by the Belgian public and critics. In early 2010, he was awarded the Flemish Culture Prize, while the Antwerp Conservatory Foundation named him ‘Maestro Honoris Causa’. All universal acclaim that stresses Joris’ contributions to Belgian and international jazz, even though the man shows no signs of slowing down.